The Elder Scrolls – Clavicus Vile

What’s not to love about a god of Power, Trickery, Wishes, and Bargains?

Clavicus Vile, strictly speaking, is a Daedric Prince, but I’ve always found the line between gods and Daedra to be fluid, and I also tend to default to the idea that it doesn’t hurt to treat something as a god if it is as powerful as a god…and Vile is certainly that powerful.

So, who is Clavicus Vile?  Well, he’s one of the seventeen most powerful Daedric Princes, and he reigns over a plane of Oblivion that is (as far as we know) unnamed.  He has a companion called Barbas who is a shape-shifting daedra, and Vile’s shrines always depict the two of them together: Vile as a man with two horns protruding from his head, and Barbas as a dog.  Despite the close connection, however, Vile often grows tired of Barbas and abandons or banishes him, causing Barbas to have to find a way back into Vile’s good graces.

Clavicus Vile is known for granting wishes when petitioned and those wishes usually turn out badly for the requester.  It’s a rare person who gets the better end when Vile is doing the bargaining, but rarity in this case doesn’t equate to impossibility – Clavicus Vile is also known for rewarding those who act to protect the welfare of the public.  Would-be bargainers would do well to pass their requests by Barbas first, especially if he’s away from Vile’s side, because he will sometimes assist and side with the petitioner instead of his master.

There are four artifacts in Tamriel that are famously associated with Clavicus Vile: the Bittercup, known for having the power to improve an attribute of the person who drinks from it while also diminishing another attribute; the Masque of Clavicus Vile, which improves the popularity of whoever wears it; the Umbra Sword, created by Naena Waerr to capture souls and send them to Vile; the Rueful Axe, created by Vile and given to a man who wanted a cure for his daughter’s lycanthropy.

(That last one is quite typical of Vile, by the way.)

For those looking to invoke, petition, or worship Clavicus Vile, it helps to know that the definition of trickster should really include his name.  He should be approached with this in mind and also with the knowledge that Vile always demands payment – sometimes up-front, and sometimes much later.  He is powerful and easily bored, which leads him to make things interesting for others; amusing for him, not so amusing (usually) for those whose lives are touched by this.

I have not yet asked Clavicus Vile for anything, yet I do think there’s benefit to keeping him in mind for assistance with “impossible” tasks, especially if they are of benefit to multiple people, as long as his true nature is never forgotten.

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One response to “The Elder Scrolls – Clavicus Vile

  1. I did one of his quests in one of the elder scroll games (forget which one), but I loved Barbas. I also think that it was really interesting the way that the quest ended and he wanted you to pick your reward and kept tempting you to pick for yourself (which would end with a more negative twist), but you could also keep asking for a self-less reward.

    It’s definitely something to keep in mind, that by putting your focus on others, you can avoid the pitfalls of working towards a goal and getting a tricky result.

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